It’s one of the facts of fitness, that spinning bikes can be very uncomfortable, so much so that you can find you’re not getting the best results from your workout. So, is there a way to change that? The answer is yes – we asked the experts how to make spinning more comfortable and they came up with a heap of brilliant tips.
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Why is Spinning Uncomfortable?
One reason is down to the design of the bikes – those thin saddles don’t really make for a comfy ride; but it’s also true that if you don’t set up your spin bike correctly you’ll be more likely to suffer aches and pains.
Another issues can be if you aren’t sure about how to sit on a spin bike – or, what do once you start pedalling to release that burny lactic acid feeling – in both cases, your muscles will start to tire, and ache earlier than they should.
So, I decided to ask for some advice from some top spinning instructors on how to make spin class more comfortable and prevent ‘sore bum after spinning class syndrome.’ And here’s what they told me.
How To Make Spinning More Comfortable
1: Work on Your Spin Bike Set Up
If it’s not in the right position nothing will feel right. If you don’t know how to set up a spin bike properly, Sunshine Coast physiotherapist and spin instructor Sarah Korzeba suggests checking the following.
- Sit on the seat, and place one heel on the upside down pedal. In this position, the knee should be straight. The reason being that when you cycle, you bend the knee, and have your toes and midfoot resting on the pedal – thereby creating a slight bend in the knee which is at the appropriate angle for that person. Too much knee flexion can result in other problems, especially overuse syndromes of the kneecap, and too little in overstretching to reach the peddle.
- Have the handlebars up as high as possible to accommodate a stiff lumbar spine. I don’t think you need to be too fussy here except adapt according to your own comfort
- The length from the front of the seat to your handlebars should be approximately the length of your elbow to your middle finger (once again- adapt from there according to comfort).
2: How to Make a Spin Bike Seat More Comfortable
Most spinning bikes actually have a thin saddle.
This reduces risk of chafing and limits the amount you sway from side to side as you pedal – this stops you getting tired as quickly as it’s designed to keep you in a position that keeps your upper body and hips more stable meaning you focus more of your energy into moving your legs, but their thin design can also make them uncomfortable.
There is a very easy solution though…
‘Our seats are actually cushioned with foam so we get very few complaints about them, but, if that’s not the case where you spin get a gel seat,” says Michaela Fellner from spinning studio Bodhi + Ride in Melbourne. ‘These are heaven.’
The Best Gel Seats for Spinning Bikes
The Bioflex- Gel Flo Anatomic Saddle Seat
This is one that Michaela personally recommends, but it’s not necessarily the easiest one to buy.
If you’re reading this from the US, you can find it online at Condor Cycles who will ship to you (they also ship to many other countries too).
In Australia you can buy it from cycling specialists Wiggle – here’s the direct link to the page to save you searching for it.
If you’re in the UK it’s available on amazon – you’ll find that here.
Another great option is….
Zacro Gel Bike Seat Cover
In over 30,000 reviews of this product, 87 per cent of riders gave it four or five stars. It fits spin bikes – and other indoor bikes like Peleton.
It has a non slip coating underneath the seat which makes it less likely to move around, but you can also tighten it with a drawstring for that extra bit of security.
There are two different sizes so measure your seat before you order
If you have a thinner seat, pick this version which fits seats 11 by 7 inches.
If you’re using a bike with a slightly fuller seat, the larger version fits seats 11.4 by 10.4 inches wide.
If you’d prefer to shop around for yourself, there are heap of other padded seats to choose from.
Choose one that suits the size and shape of your bike saddle to reduce the risk of it slipping and sliding as you ride.
Or Consider Padded Bike Shorts
If you’re going to spinning classes rather than using a bike at home having a seat cushion that you have to fit before you ride might not be that convenient in that case, you can also look at padded bike shorts.
These are great for spinning, but also help make any exercise bike seat more comfortable.
You’ll find a big range on amazon on the link above, but if you’re looking for a curated suggestion. Here’s a couple to look at
Best on Budget: Baleaf Bike Shorts
Professional cycling shorts can be a bit pricey, so if you’re not sure you want to splash out then Balaef come highly recommended as a good budget option.
US readers, you’ll find those here.
Or, if you’re shopping from the Uk, then you’ll find them here
Best If You Hate Bike Shorts: Balaef Padded Underwear
I must admit they look rather strange, but, if you prefer to wear a baggier short when you spin or cycle, then padding cycling knickers could be your answer.
US readers can find them here.
Or, if you’re reading from the UK have a look at them in the UK here.
Best for US Readers: Terry’s Bike Shorts
The range at Terry’s Bike Shorts come very highly recommended by cyclists – particularly their Bella Short.
Have a look here to see the whole range.
Or, if you’re short and time and just want to give the Bella a go, then you’ll find those here.
Terry’s is based in the US and while they do ship internationally but the shipping is quite pricey.
Best for UK and Aus Readers: DHB at Wiggle
These come recommended by many outdoor cyclists
if you’re in the UK have a look at the DHB Range at Wiggle. Here’s the best UK link
And don’t worry Australian folks, they’re also stocked on the Aussie site too, you’ll find the basic ones here.
3: How to Properly Sit on a Spin Bike
Getting your spin bike seat position correct is important, but if you then don’t sit on the spin bike correctly, you’re still going to run into problems.
‘Incorrect posture will put pressure on the wrong places as you move making your spin class less comfortable – and less effective. ‘There are different postures depending on what you’re doing,’ says Michaela. ‘When you are sprinting you need to have your hips slightly tipped down for example, however generally, this is what you’re aiming for…
- take your chin up
- lift and open your chest
- pull your shoulders back
- squeeze your core
- tip from the hips
- elbows slightly bent
- make sure arms are not stretched out too far
- make sure your handlebar position is correct, otherwise you will get lower back pain
4: Stretch Out Your Back
A more comfortable spinning class is not just about your legs; ‘Every now and again it’s good to sit upright, and draw your arms together behind your back to align your spine and open your chest and shoulders a little. They’re hunched forwards for more of the time when spinning so this will counteract that,’ says Sarah
5: Move Around
A good spinning class will see you pedalling in a number of different positions to help work different muscles in the legs, but changing position regularly also helps make you more comfortable.
‘Whenever you start to feel uncomfortable change something about the way you are sitting. If you sit at a desk all day, for example, you might find you can’t spend long periods on your elbows and so may need to move more to avoid this,’ says Sarah.
6: Tighten your Tummy
The more your upper body moves on the bike the more pressure you put on your back and hips. You want your upper body to try and stay as stable as possible ‘Make sure your core is engaged so you don’t flop around from side to side,’ says Michaela.
Doing core work when you’re off the bike will help create this extra stability. Look at moves like Pilates (if you can’t get to a studio, have a look at our home workout here) or the plank that develop the deep core muscles more effectively than sit ups do.
If you can’t hold a plank for that long, there’s actually a really simple fix for that the just involves shifting your foot position slightly.
Find out all about it on this post which contains 5 tips that can help improve your plank.
7. And Check Your Knees
If they’re flaring outwards you’re going to be putting more pressure through them and smaller muscles are the side of your legs, and your quads and glutes that should be doing most of the work won’t be targeted quite as effectively. Keep them inline by thinking about engaging your inner thighs as you push downwards.
8: Make Sure Your Resistance is High Enough
It’ll give you a better workout and makes your upper body more stable. ‘Resistance is not the enemy,’ says Sarah. ‘When you’re riding on the road there’s a fair degree of resistance coming up to meet you so you should simulate that. It’s particularly important when standing as you need the pedals to be able to take your body weight.’
Raising resistance is also a good way to help improve the calorie burn of your cycle – which is good if you’re aiming to use cycling for weight loss. Find some more tips on that here.
9: Wear Proper Shoes
Most dedicated spin studios will give you proper shoes that clip into the pedals but more general gyms or smaller classes may not have these. ‘But just wearing trainers in the cages on the pedals can really hurt the arch of the foot,’ says Michaela.
Cleated shoes also make it easier to drive your foot through the whole pedal as you can pull up as effectively as you push down which gives more power to each stroke.
If your studio doesn’t have special spin shoes – or you’re spinning at home, you can find spin shoes at sports shops, or have a look here.
If you want a good recommendation, the Pearl Izumi indoor cycling shoes come up as a good choice for first time spinners in reviews.
10: Get Off If You Need To
Sometimes the only way to stop your butt aching during spinning class is to get off and walk around for a bit, says Sarah.
If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, she says standing up in the pedals for short intervals, even if it’s not a specific standing part of the workout will also help reduce sore bum syndrome.
11: Keep Practising
If all of the above is in place then it’s just a matter of getting your body used to spinning – which will only happen with practice.
Again, classes will help keep you motivated here – depending where you live good names to look out for would be Soul Cycle (in the US and coming to the UK soon), RPM and Virtual Ride at Virgin Active and Spin Glow at Fitness First or my absolute favourite, Psycle. In Australia, try Scenic Cycle, Vicious Cycle, Bodhi + Ride or any of the big gyms.
If you’re working out at home, you can find spinning work outs online or go old school and try spinning workout DVDs. One benefit of these is that you’re not trying to balance your phone on your handlebars while pedalling at a rate of knots.
Johnny G is actually the man who invented spinning so anything with his name on it is going to be good.
I also like the idea of The Ambient Collection Virtual Cycle Rides which see you pedalling along to pretty landscapes on your TV
And that, my friends, is the tip I need to take on most….so, best I go hit the gym then!
Who is The Wellness Nerd?
My name is Helen Foster and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.